Kelly's Reviews > The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
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Nov 28, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: children-s-literature, historical-fiction, newbery
Read in December, 2009

Many people have predicted Calpurnia Tate to be this year's Newbery winner and, though I'm still partial to The Magician's Elephant, I would be pleased if this won.

I'm actually really surprised how much I liked this book, despite the overpowering message of "you can do anything you want!" I loved the characters, especially Calpurnia, and I loved her narration. The writing, with a few exceptions, was very well done. But what appealed to me more than anything was how much it related to my own childhood. I, like Calpurnia, was a little naturalist and explorer and spent a majority of my childhood summers catching insects and spiders and then looking them up in my library of bug books (still, to this day, nothing beats the priceless moment when I caught a large praying mantis). My late grandmother, a biologist and very active environmentalist, fueled my love for nature by sending me nature and science books and teaching me the names of different birds, shells, etc. Her house was a lot like Calurnia's grandfather's library, for it was not only filled with books, but also fossils and shells that she had collected over the years. And so this book was really like a trip down memory lane for me.

But putting my personal experience of the book aside, I worry that this book will only appeal to a limited number of kids. I think it would take a mature child to enjoy and appreciate the story, the time period, and the many references to Darwin and Evolution. Teachers and parents are praising it, and I certainly really enjoyed it, but will kids? As a kid, I think I would have enjoyed the nature parts, but I probably wouldn't have liked the book as much as I do now.
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